What I’ve been reading – On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read it a long time ago, and to the best of my memory I just didn’t agree with at least half of King’s assertions. But you can’t argue with his sales, and The Dead Zone is one of my favourite books ever. He’s got to know what he’s doing!

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Zumba For The Soul week 2 – minuet, madame?

A little late!  But –

Week 2 – the Zumba things from Pam Grout’s ‘Art & Soul, Reloaded’ are: inventing a new soup, naming a rock band, and painting my nails with ten different shades of nail polish.  Darn, I don’t think I’ve even got two different nail polishes in the house!  (I do have some acrylic paint, and watercolours, and silver spray paint too.  Maybe…  )

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image – Ilya Yakubovich https://www.flickr.com/photos/yakubovich/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ no changes.

soup – wow, this is easy.  I invent new soup all the time.  I’ll put sunflower sprouts in the soup I was already going to make, and call it – eh – Potage Tournesol.  Fancy, huh?  You could put that on a toney menu and no-one would question it.

aaand would you go see a band called Iceberg Slimfit?  (Or buy jeans with that label?)

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image – pumpkincat210 https://www.flickr.com/photos/pumpkincat210/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ no changes.

I think I have some purple nail polish in the house…  Time to go explore…

 

 

What I’ve been reading – David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked the biblical stuff about David and Goliath – the interpretation that David’s victory was about the tactics and ruthlessness of the underdog, rather than a heavenly blessing, was very interesting. The chapter about the Northern Ireland troubles was very depressing though. I loved the bit about the Resistance in WWII France – the community that basically said, ‘We’ve got our Jews, you come get ’em if you want ’em, see what you get!’ was – well, almost funny, although you feel bad laughing at something so serious.

I often finish a Gladwell book feeling as if I’ve been entertained, but not sure what I’m supposed to have really learned. This is one of those.

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What I’ve been reading – Happier Than God by Neale Donald Walsch

Happier Than God: Turn Ordinary Life into an Extraordinary ExperienceHappier Than God: Turn Ordinary Life into an Extraordinary Experience by Neale Donald Walsch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a birthday gift to me, which I was a bit bemused by. (Doesn’t everyone interpret books as subliminal messages, given as gifts?) I found it a bit repetitive – the author certainly has a few mantras he leans on heavily, especially the bit about ‘recreating yourself in the grandest version of the greatest vision’ or something like that. A bit gobbledegooky if you ask me. Oh, and the ‘we are all one’. I do have a bit of a problem with that. Because even if it’s true at a higher level, it still doesn’t seem to matter. Don’t you still have to deal with your own personal little-i self, day to day?

I wasn’t exactly infuriated by this book, and I didn’t even disagree with it. I just find all of the Secret-type books inarguable, in the sense that it’s hard to argue with flat assertions that can’t be proven or disproven. It seems to me that any of the experiments they suggest may or may not be borne out by results. And one incident doesn’t prove much. But it does feel as if there’s always some work-around that explains away inconvenient results. Check out p. 183 for that here.

It’s very heavy on the self-promotion – which is fine, actually, except it takes up a lot of space in the book. I can’t quite buy what it’s selling, and maybe that’s why I’m not happier than God yet.

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What I’ve been reading – He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt

He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding GuysHe’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys by Greg Behrendt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are certain self-help/positive thinking/career or relationship advice/LOA books, where you just have to put the book down a minute and stop and think, “Are there really people out there who need this explaining to them?”

Yes, this is one of those. Despite that, it’s funny, quirky, fun to read, and probably serves a useful purpose for the more credulous and easily-gulled amongst us. The movie wasn’t bad, too.

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Random Quest – 08/12/2017

image – Jan (Arny) Messersmith https://www.flickr.com/photos/boogieswithfish/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/, not modified

The inaugural post in an occasional series!  (I was going to call it Random Element, and then I thought no, let’s honour the fantabulous sf short story by John Wyndham.  Excellent, recommended, go forth and read it!)

image – Holly https://www.flickr.com/photos/strangefrontier/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/ not modified

In this series, I’ll take a random element – words out of a random word generator online, out of a casually grabbed book, a snatch of conversation on the radio – and interpret them.  Or possibly interpret the results of inputting these few random terms into the searchbox of a website – Twitter or Youtube or any one of a number of others.  Interpret, in the sense of give meaning to them, a nudge from the Universe, a voice in the (tinfoil-hatted) head, a prod between the shoulderblades.

image – John Keogh https://www.flickr.com/photos/jvk/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/, not modified

Hey, it’s every bit as valid as friggin’ astrology, ‘kay?  And it keeps me amused, out of trouble and off the streets.  Where’s the bad?

Today’s random quest – soup, ant, knee.  And knitting.  I always want to add ‘knitting’.

 

she’d have been garrotted at Trinian’s

(Love those Trinian’s vixens in any incarnation!)

Damn it. I had a terrific idea today – well, I had an idea that would be fun for me, and that amounts to the same thing. I was listening to a local pop radio station, golden oldies – depending on your era. It was one cheesy 90s housey-housey rave trance and techno classic after another, which is always good fun for me. And I thought – with poetry on my mind, after reading one blog post after another about it – O, I know what would be a good idea.

I could write a series of ‘After a line from’ poems! But, instead of taking the first line from another writer’s poem, and building a whole new cathedral of words upon it… I could take the first line (or maybe the standout line from the chorus) of an earworm-worthy 90s dance classic.  Like say ‘Ride On Time’, or ‘You’ve Got The Love’. Or ‘You Might Need Somebody’Shola Ama, baby!

…and then make something completely other out of it.  Something that you wouldn’t catch on a dancefloor.  A quiet meditation on death, or love, or gardening, say.

Yes! It’s a well-worn tradition.  Not my own idea, of course. People have been doing the same thing for years.  And for that matter setting it as homework, making a parlour game of it, producing new creations out of old classics. And – traditionally – that’s what you do, the accepted procedure: to name your derivative poem ‘After a line from xxx by xxxx’. All attribution and credit present and correct – no attempt to filch the prestige of the original idea.

But beyond the signalling of the format, the citing of the original creative spark – I was damn sure that it was a poetic format that had an actual name, dammit.

But what? I had a vague notion that it might be a clerihew. But a quick resorting to search engine services proved me wrong. I’m not overly educated regarding formal poetry structures – O, the power of understatement.  But what little information I did possess proved insufficient. Not a rondel, not a sonnet – bloody hell no – not a villanelle either.

I knew there was an answer, though – and I knew how I knew, too. I’d first come across the phenomenon at ten or eleven years of age – in a boarding school story by Ann Digby.

The Trebizon school stories were moderately popular at the time, although I found them a bit bland. Compared to the traditional exemplars of the genre – Enid Blyton, basically, and perhaps the Chalet School, and of course St. Trinian’s – they were botched, uneasy half-arsed 1980s creations, products of the time. Hardly able to flat-out condemn private education, given that they were trading on its snob appeal – and yet offering half-hearted sops to the red flag, with school scholarships for plucky lower-middle class heroines. (Definitely lower-middle. Not actual proles, darling.) Doubtful about the seductive charms of the aristocracy, even in an era in love with Princess Diana, and gifting the school involved with a cohort of upper-middle bourgeoisie, banker’s brats and doctor’s daughters.

Sign o’ the times, right? Thatcherite union-breaking, miners’ strikes, all that jazz. Not exactly down with the workers, but unable to uninhibitedly embrace the decadent allure of the aristocracy, blatant capitalist privilege and unearned elitism.

Not like these days, eh? Fucking Mumford, and his clueless hairy flippin’ progeny, in fruitless search of a tune in a tin bath.  Tom Hiddlestone, ex-Eton, ex-Dragon School, ex-Cambridge, the scrappy urchin nobly urging us to reach for the stars.  Cheers, Tom.

But I was an uncritical young reader – anything including cornflake packets and the Reader’s Digest, basically – and I swallowed the books down whole. Including one installment of the series, which included a school poetry competition. And what poetry format did our plucky heroine choose, as her competition entry?

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image – Maximilian Ott https://www.flickr.com/photos/maximilianott/ licence https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/

Yep. She picked a line by – ooh, I want to say Wordsworth, but it was probably someone more obscure – a first line. And she wrote herself an ‘After A Line From…’ poem. Except, I’m pretty sure that in the book, she knew what the format was actually called, and – admirably – used the correct term. Well, admirably for a twelve or thirteen year old character. Considering that I still can’t locate the appropriate word, myself.

Not just that, we’re not done.  In the book, the format itself was key to the plot – because it wasn’t all over with just with the climax of OPH writing a winning comp entry. No.

The silly little heroine of the fourth form, and her slightly non-U accent, first wrote her derivative work while wandering lonely as a cloud along the beach, or a cliff or somesuch.

Then, the little div managed to let it get blown away by the wind. O’er the cliff and far away, and could she remember a word of it once it was gone out of her hand? Could she heck as like. Oh dear, oh hell.

So, what’s an earnest scholarship private boarding school girl to do, when she’s lost the work of genius that the inspiration of the moment has brought her?  And the competition deadline is looming? Oh, bloody hell. Probably just bodge out an inferior substitute.  Because when the Muse isn’t calling, the poxy bitch can’t be seduced, and you just gotta pound out the words and fulfill the requirements anyhow.

Well, too bad, she doesn’t win the competition. Except, she does get to read the winning entry. And get this: it’s her own poem. Yep, the first one – the one she let blow away over the cliff.

Which was apparently caught and retrieved by the Assistant Head Girl of the whole damn school. The moral leader and ethical exemplar of the entire damn shooting match. Which the dodgy bint has… uh-oh… claimed, and submitted as her own work.  Not a citation, not a reference, not a credit to be seen in the whole shebang, kidses, nuttin’.  Nuttin’!  No acknowledgment of either the original poet, or our transformative-workin’ Plucky Heroine, to be seen!

Oh, Plucky Heroine! What are you to do, in this tight spot?

Well, mostly, she spends the next chapter or so dithering about it. Oh, her work has been stolen! Oh, but it’s the assistant Head Girl! Who would believe her? How can she prove it? Will allegations result in dire consequences?

Eventually, after enough agonizing to justify a murder or a little insider trading, OPH does make a formal complaint. And both lassies get hauled in to see the Headmistress. (Who is as sapphically lithe and foxy as you might expect the headmistress of a fictional girls’ boarding school to be. Well, that’s how I choose to remember her, at any rate.)

It’s not smooth sailing.  Prove it, the Headmistress basically says. And our divvy – hang on, Our Plucky Heroine – who has not thought this through – has no comeback to that. Until! The Assistant Head Girl – or, as we shall know her, Thieving Little Cow – is making good her escape, smirking smugly and heading for the study door. That’s when the Headmistress casually says, “By the way, Robin -”

…assistant Head Girls are always called Robin, or Roberta at a pinch…

“I’m planning on including the works of NAME OF HIGHLY OBSCURE POET in next term’s English seminars. What’s your opinion on that?”

Cue blank look from Evil Roberta, The Thieving Little Cow. Who has never blimmin’ heard of HIGHLY OBSCURE POET. Despite having entered an ‘After A Line From…’ poem in the prestigious school literary competition, taking as its first line one filched from that very HIGHLY OBSCURE POET himself.  Not that it was flagged up as a derivative work, since OPH had just been scratching out a rough draft on the leaf of paper that found its way into TLC’s eager hot sweaty little hands.  Roberta didn’t have a clue, that not one but two writers had contributed to the work, which she then laid claim to and appended her own name to.

Pwned is, I believe, what the kids haven’t been saying for about five years now.

Turns out, Sexy Sapphic Headmistress (in my head) had had her suspicions about TLC – given the lack of the usual format of title attribution for these poems, given her past character.  But without hard evidence to confirm her suspicions, she’d been powerless to validate and support OP(AC)H.

What? Oh. Our Plucky (Although Common) Heroine.  Obvs. Who was extremely familiar with the works of the obscure poet, and could demonstrate the fact, cosmopolitan, sophisticated and myopic as any other book-worm. And thereby proved her prior claim to the string of words arranged into music and meter on the page. Thievery thwarted!

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image – Smithsonian Institution https://www.flickr.com/photos/smithsonian/ licence https://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

Anyhow, there ya go. Protected by poetry, redeemed by riffs, legitimized by language! This is the power of words, folks! Never doubt what the right or the wrong word can do – moving mountains, freezing hearts, changing destinies with the flick of a page of the thesaurus.

Never doubt it.

And I still have no clue what the poetry form in question is really and legitimately called. Must I really go the full hog and start re-reading the anodyne Trebizon saga, book after book, to find out? O dear reader, have you no clue on the issue?

In any case, my plan goes forward – onwards, ever onwards!  With or without the format name of the verse I’ll be spewing forth shortly. Expect ‘After A Line From ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ any day now. Perhaps modified, to ‘Last Night A Poet Saved My Rep’.  Or possibly ‘After A Line From ‘Bump – I’m Rushing’‘.

The Jetslags’ Rushing Roulette remix, obviously.

 

Advice from a real “Woman of NASA,” for kids who dream of working in science — Quartz

If you don’t already have Lego’s new “Women of NASA” play set, you’d better hustle. The toy became a massive seller in the 24 hours following its release on Nov. 1, briefly selling out on Amazon. Parents are falling over themselves, rightly so, to expose their girls—and boys—to inspiring role models in a field where…

via Advice from a real “Woman of NASA,” for kids who dream of working in science — Quartz

 

Women of NASA is SO AWESOME!  I know what I want for Christmas!

hello darkness*

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http://rcdow.org.uk/vocations/blog/a-novena-for-peace-and-renewal/

This is one of the first page results I got from a random-word Google search today.  It’s the one that sprung out immediately and caught the eye on the page, although not the first result as such.  Interesting, huh?  Got to admit, I’m always picking up signs and interpreting messages.  I blame Pam Grout.

This, though?

Sometimes, the universe just needs a kick.

 

Image – Alex Antropov https://www.flickr.com/photos/51686021@N07/ licence https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

*ya know where it comes from.  you oughtta.

 

 

Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water*

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image _foxy on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/27395274@N00/  licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

I was obliged to take a walk into town today, due to transport issues – GOSH-DARN INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES, WHY WERE THEY EVER INVENTED?  But there were compensations along the way, abundant compensations.  Primary amongst these were the vetches in the hedgerows and the woods – multi-headed purple vetches, and purple vetches are almost my favourite vetches.  (Apart from birdsfoot trefoil, and that’s an unfair competition, because birdsfoot trefoil is also colloquially called eggs-and-bacon in the UK, AND HOW CAN ANY DECENT WILDFLOWER BE EXPECTED TO COMPETE WITH THAT?)

Vetches are the prettiest things.  The internal combustion engine is the annoyingest thing, but vetches are the derndest prettiest things.

Also the blackberries are not quite yet finished off – or pissed on by Satan and rendered inedible, as the folklore has it.  (It’s the maggits in wild brambles that bother me more than Satan’s theoretical outdoor hedgerow slashes while out on the piss.  Copious amounts of salted water, to deal with the wildlife, can render them uneatable anyway.)

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image Andrew Barclay https://www.flickr.com/photos/electropod/ on Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

There were even some unripe blackberries still hanging high, fruit and flower everywhere, nature in profusion and gloriously fertile.

It rained a little, and I’d forgotten my brolly.  But I didn’t feel I had too much to complain about, all told.  I came back with biscuits, after all – and biscuits are the comfortingest things.

*Brian Jacques.